How Can One Enhance Sourness?



What can you do to bring out more "sour" flavor to sourdough bread? Are there ingredients or steps that can be done in the process, or do you have to perhaps try a different starter?

Background: Some years ago I got some "Oregon Trail Starter" (link: ) and made somewhat succesful bread. I gave some to my father in law, who really likes to bake bread, and he has made some great sourdough with this starter.

I got busy and my starter died (is that a sin around here?) and kind of forgot about sourdough. My father in law recently gave us starter from the starter we gave him ( he has named it "Herman" ) and yesterday I made the best sourdough bread I've ever made. Got lucky I guess.

Anyway, my interest in sourdough is revived, and although the bread was great I would like to achieve a more distinctive "sourness" if I can.

Great forum, by the way, even if all the recipes seem to be in some kind of "metric" kind of units, whatever that is. :)

238 users have voted.


SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 December 7

Hi alienbogey (!) and welcome to the forum! As the forum is based in Australia most measurements are given with metric figures - but we have lots of international visitors in here who seem quite happy to put up with it!

Here are some links to earlier discussions about 'sourness':

There are some wonderfully helpful people in the forum, and I'm sure you'll get lots of hints and tips. Have a look at people's blogs, too, because everybody does their bread a bit differently.

As for 'killing' your starter ... my husband once threw out my jar of starter and washed the jar in the dishwasher! No, I didn't divorce him. But it was close!!


alienbogey 2006 December 7

No, I'll gladly convert from metric to english as required - just thought I'd throw out the gibe at metric to see if I could get a rise.

I read the links and decided to try leaving the dough in the frig overnight after mixing it all together. Tomorrow I'll take it out, stir it up and let it (hopefully) rise and bake it. We'll see what happens.

I've been lucky enough to visit Australia once - the Sydney area all too briefly - and hope to see it again someday.

TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2006 December 7

Welcome, alienbogey! We do have a nice little family here, although, currently having some petulant members who feels baking in a pot is plain potty! Hope you find the sour you want.

carla's picture
carla 2006 December 7

Hi - since you live in the US I assume that you use a wheat sourdough.

If that is correct then you will always have problems to get it really sour. Wheat sourdoughs have much more yeast than lactic or acetic acid.

I have a wheat and also a rye sourdough and since I bake much more with him than with the wheat sourdough I can tell you how I get him more sour or more yeasty depending on what I want to bake.

I always keep him in the fridge when not in use. When I want to use him for baking, he gets hauled out and has a bit of warm water to make him feel alive again, then I add freshly milled rye flour. The consistency as well as the temperature will now make the difference in what you achieve.

Normally I do a Detmold 3-stage refreshing course so that the yeasts and acids will be nicely balanced out and I have a good tasting sourdough.

The first step is always fairly wet and warm so that the yeasts will multiply. The second step is more flour and water, but the dough is much firmer and is kept a little cooler so that now the acids will multiply. The third step is to make the sourdough wanting to jump out of his jar, so he gets more water and flour, the consistency is fairly soft and I keep him at about 30 degrees.

There are calculators in german and english online to calculate exactly how much sourdough you need for your bread and how much water and flour to add in each stage and how long to keep it fermenting at what temperature.

For your question it is only interesting to know that if you keep the dough quite firm at about 20 degrees C it will produce more acids. If you make it more like a pancake batter and keep it at 26-30 degrees C then the yeasts will multiply more.

Now all this is true for a rye sourdough. With a wheat sourdough you will never get the same amount of acid. So if after a couple of trials you still think you like it more sour then use a spoonful of your wheat sourdough and feed it a couple of times with rye flour. You have now turned it into a rye sourdough and now you have two children to play with.

Good luck.

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 December 7

No, I'll gladly convert from metric to english as required - just thought I'd throw out the gibe at metric to see if I could get a rise.

*very punny*

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2006 December 8

Welcome fellow American, we have a potted bunch for the moment! I am one of the old bakers, none of that stuff! Just ask and you will get lots of answers!


northwestsourdough's picture
northwestsourdough 2006 December 8

Seems to me there are many variable to getting a good sour. I have one starter that is consistantly sour very easily, yes with white bread flour. Some of my starters don't sour much at all. Some you really have to do the stages and really work at it to get a good sour. One easier way is to add some rye/whole wheat flour to your dough, especially in a sponge overnight. Feeding your starter by pouring out most of it and using a large ratio of fresh flour/water seems to encourage the yeasts at the expense of the bacteria. Also method and technique influence the sour. Keeping a journal helps you to figure what works for you. It is one reason sourdough is so fun, because it is challenging and getting it consistantly the way you want it can be difficult.

alienbogey 2006 December 10

Thanks for the replies.

Yesterday I tried mixing all the ingredients into dough, then leaving it in the frig overnight, then letting it warm in the morning, then re-stirred it all up with some commercial yeast that had been activated in warm water (does that make me a bad person?), then let it rise (too long, it started back down a bit), then baked.

My family agreed that it was somewhat more sour, but not much.

Thanks for all the suggestions, I'll have to try adding some rye to the mix.

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 December 11

then re-stirred it all up with some commercial yeast that had been activated in warm water (does that make me a bad person?),

Not at all, alienbogey!

There are plenty of us who 'cheat', and even confess to our 'sin' in this forum! But there are plenty of purists as well! Personally, I'm happy to use my starter or a packaged yeast, depending on what I want to make. Pizza bases in my house usually need to be made quick (two small boys), so they always get the yeast treatment.


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